It is now October, the budget month. Like other concerned citizens and organisations, we in Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan (Patriot) would like to give our input. Veterans, men and women who have served in the Armed Forces and Royal Malaysian Police, are a special breed of people. From the start, the selection process was tough, with extremely high unsuccessful application and drop out rate, and later on high risk of injury and casualty. They served with all their physical and mental strength, with their trained able bodies, through their prime years. They sacrificed their own freedom and family lives. Many retired young and left to cope on their own. Some made it through retraining and skills acquired during the service. The majority continue to fade, with heads high. They only ask for one thing - 'please do not forget us'.
The state of our economy
The Statistics Department has just reported our September 2017 consumer price index (CPI) rose to 120.3 points from 115.3 in September 2016, indicating the inflation rate at 4.3% year-on-year (Bernama, 20 Oct 17). The inflation rate is calculated from the latest CPI minus the earlier CPI, divided by the earlier CPI; and the result multiply by 100. This is a hefty jump. Our official reports often mention core inflation rate, which omits the inclusion of CPI for food items, fuel and travel. Food, fuel and travel expenses can usually spike, causing fast rising inflation rate. Hence, core inflation rate as reported quarterly has been below 3%, giving a feel-good perception. However, food inflation alone is even higher, at 4.6% (YoY). Food and travel expenses are the two daily high expenses for all. it is in these two items veterans feel the pinch most.
The 6% GST revenue may surpass RM42 billion this year (The Star, 18 Sep 17), giving some relief to fiscal stress. No one can escape this tax and it compounds the pinch already felt in the fast rising inflation, especially in food items and travel expenses. Patriots are of the opinion that the GST was implemented at an inappropriate time, when our economy was not doing well. April 2015, when the GST was implemented, was right in the middle of an oil and commodities price slump. Local businesses were squeezed. Ideally the GST should have been introduced when our economy is doing well, and that too starting from 2% and gradually rises with improved economy. Patriots do not want to sound ridiculous by asking the GST be withdrawn. However, what the government can and should do, is to immediately identify and plug all economic leakages. Immediately cut down on all wastage. The PMO was allocated a 2017 budget of RM 260.8 billion. Such a humongous sum for what? Surely the tasks undertaken by the PMO and the different departments in it, could be handled by the various ministries. Duplication and overlapping roles are a certainty for wastage. With RM 1 billion allocation to Jakim, the people has a right to expect the result of a harmonious and tolerant society. Similarly, with the multi millions allocated to BTN yearly, we should expect participants to lead by example the principles of Rukunegara, and for civic mindedness and national unity. The Auditor General's Report, year after year, has shown numerous and repeated abuses and wastage. Surely such nonsense can stop. After taking into consideration all the leakages and wastage, perhaps the continuation of the GST can be reconsidered.
Our nation's government debt in 2016 was RM 908.7 billion, or 53.2% to the GDP. Two thirds of it is in foreign currencies. With our ringgit depreciation, this does not look good. We are genuinely concerned that our children, comprising Generation Y and Z, who could barely afford to buy their own house, would be made to bare the debt burden. Sparked by fast rising public and individual debts, and a depreciating currency, our economy is sitting on a shaky tectonic plate. As such, the veterans are even more concerned if they will be forgotten.
Requests for veterans
For this coming national budget, Patriots would like followings reviewed or implemented:
- Pension of the older retirees be at par with the new retirees. Needless to say this is because of the difference in pay scale over time.
- For all Veterans, both officers and other ranks, on the terms of service. All be given pension when they leave service. To take into account at whatever length of service, calculated on the number of years of service. This is because the majority of the veterans, and more so for the other ranks, are in need of help.
- Public transport - a token of yearly RM 10 only special pass for veterans on all public rail and road transport system owned by the government and GLCs. This is because of the rising expenses in transportation.
- A food stamp of RM 100 a month for the hardcore poor veterans. This is necessary due to the fast rising food price inflation.
- A substantial discount based on household income to be given for electricity and water bills.
- Every GLC to allocate at least 10% of it human resources to Veterans and ex Police below the age of 60.
- Perhebat should not just conduct resettlement courses for veterans, but also be responsible to ensure veterans with low pension be secured with a job or business upon retirement.
Patriot wishes to see the government recognise the sacrifices of the Veterans and the ex Royal Malaysian Police in defending and maintaining the independence of this country, The have served with honour and sacrificed their personal freedom and family lives. Especially for the Veterans, during service, were being subjected to the military law later known as Armed forces Act 1972. They were deprived of their freedom in accordance to the Article 10 of the federal Constitution. It is sad that when they became Veterans, they were being equated the same status as the retired civil servants. This seems unfair because due to the Armed Forces unique terms of service, only less than 6% of the Veterans can retire at the age of 60.